Cost-Effective Composite Cars?

Lotus Engineering (Hethel, England; www.grouplotus.com) and Jacob Composite GmbH (Wilhelmsdorf, Germany; www.jacob-kunststofftechnik.de) have begun a program called ECOLITE (Efficient Composites—Lightweight and Thermoformed) that aims to cost-effectively produce passenger cars with chassis and body panels made primarily of composite materials at volumes in the 30,000 to 50,000 unit/year range.

Lotus Engineering (Hethel, England; www.grouplotus.com) and Jacob Composite GmbH (Wilhelmsdorf, Germany; www.jacob-kunststofftechnik.de) have begun a program called ECOLITE (Efficient Composites—Lightweight and Thermoformed) that aims to cost-effectively produce passenger cars with chassis and body panels made primarily of composite materials at volumes in the 30,000 to 50,000 unit/year range. The companies are betting that higher gas prices, environmental regulation and greater demand for niche vehicles will drive automaker interest in composite structures. The program is focusing on a thermoforming process using glass fiber reinforced polyamide, PBT (polybutylene terephthalate) and polystyrene resins in order to reduce production cycle times. Unique thermoforming simulation software will test the production characteristics of various formulations. The first phase of the program runs through October, concentrating on creating a crashworthy composite front end module modeled after an existing production design.